Exosomes are nanovesicles formed in the endosomal pathway with an important role in paracrine and autocrine cell communication. Exosomes secreted by cancer cells, malicious exosomes, have important roles in tumor microenvironment maturation and cancer progression. The knowledge of the role of exosomes in tumorigenesis prompted a new era in cancer diagnostics and therapy, taking advantage of the use of circulating exosomes as tumor biomarkers due to their stability in body fluids and targeting malignant exosomes’ release and/or uptake to inhibit or delay tumor development.
In recent years, nanotechnology has paved the way for the development of a plethora of new diagnostic and therapeutic platforms, fostering theranostics. The unique physical and chemical properties of gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) make them suitable vehicles to pursuit this goal. AuNPs’ properties such as ease of synthesis with the desired shape and size, high surface:volume ratio, and the possibility of engineering their surface as desired, potentiate AuNPs’ role in nanotheranostics, allowing the use of the same formulation for exosome detection and restraining the effect of malicious exosomes in cancer progression.
Gold nanoparticles’ (AuNPs) functionalization for theranostics
After functionalization with polyethylene glycol (PEG) for higher biocompatibility, AuNPs may be functionalized with a variety of molecules, including chemotherapeutical drugs, antibodies, small interference RNA (siRNA), short hairpin RNA (shRNA), fluorescent dyes, proteins, or a combination of several biomolecules.